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My Atypical Scabies Symptoms: Unusual Signs of Mites That Doctors Don't Recognize

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My husband and I had a yearlong battle with scabies, one that doctors failed to recognize because it did not "fit the picture."

What Are Scabies and What Do They Look Like?

Scabies are parasitic mites that infest human skin. They are contracted through contact with an infested person, be it as intimate and prolonged as sexual intercourse or as brief as picking up a child at a daycare facility. The scabies mite is usually spread by direct, prolonged, skin-to-skin contact with a person who has scabies. In other words, you can get scabies from even the most casual contact with a stranger—provided they have scabies.

The mites are very small and cannot be easily seen with the naked eye. You probably won't see scabies crawling on your skin; you will only see the symptoms. Their burrow marks are often visible as curvy, grayish lines on the skin. Rashes or pimple-like bumps resembling bug bites may also be present.

Healthcare professionals look for evidence of scabies between the fingers and toes, across the shoulder blades, in the armpits, along the inner elbows and insides of the wrists, around the breasts, waist, genitals, buttocks, and knees, as well as on the soles of the feet. Widespread belief within the healthcare community holds that the scabies largely avoid the face and scalp. It is also a common belief that these mites are too small to elicit a crawling sensation on the skin, although the body's immune response to the mite, and to the feces and eggs it deposits in its burrow, leads to severe itching.

What Scabies Might Look Like